Ichiro passes Sisler, pads record
SEATTLE -- No. 258 for Ichiro Suzuki was like so many others, a little ground ball up the middle.
Only this one made history, a hit cheered 'round the world.
There should be two records, one for the 162-game season and one for the 154-game season. I believe baseball ought to have two record books for all records, and both sets of records should be held in high esteem.
Baseball should not diminish what George Sisler achieved with his 257-hit season. Hitters who played the same 154-game schedule came close several times but never surpassed it. And we'll never know how many more hits Sisler would have had if he'd played 162 games.
Likewise, what Ichiro has done is impressive because baseball has seen more than 30 years of the 162-game schedule and no one has come close until now. So give both Sisler and Ichiro their due.
"Through my career, I think this is the best moment," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "I can't really put it into words."
Suzuki later got another hit, giving him 259 this season and a major league-leading .373 average.
Suzuki chopped a leadoff single in the first inning, then put himself in the record book with a bouncer in the third.
"I think that's the most emotional I've ever gotten in my life," said Suzuki, who is known for his steely, methodical approach.
Fireworks exploded after Suzuki's big hit reached the outfield, creating a haze over Safeco Field, and his teammates mobbed him at first base.
"Goose bumps aren't even the right word," Seattle manager Bob Melvin said. "That second hit almost brought tears to my eyes. ... If you're talking about sending a guy up for a hit, this guy is the best ever."
With the fans still cheering, Suzuki ran over to the first-base seats and shook hands with Sisler's 81-year-old daughter, Frances Sisler Drochelman, and other members of the Hall of Famer's family.
"My father would have been delighted," Drochelman said moments later. "He would be so happy to know such a fine young man was doing so well."
Across the Pacific, fans in downtown Tokyo watched Suzuki in sports bars and on big-screen monitors. A crowd also gathered at the city hall in Suzuki's hometown in Aichi prefecture.
"I would like to give him my heartfelt congratulations," Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said. "He has made extra efforts in addition to having a natural gift."
Added Suzuki's father, Nobuyuki: "You can tell how happy and proud I am just by looking at me. The tears just won't stop flowing."
Fans booed when plate umpire Joe West called a rare third strike on Suzuki in the eighth. Reliever Michael Tejera got the strikeout.
But fans were back on their feet when Suzuki left for substitute Hiram Bocachica with two outs in the ninth. Mariners manager Bob Melvin made the move to let Suzuki get one more ovation, and the right fielder jogged in to cheers.
"I just hope people realize the monumental effort it took to surpass this record, which has stood so long," said Seattle hitting coach Paul Molitor, who joined the Hall of Fame this summer.
Sisler set the hits record in 1920 with the St. Louis Browns over a 154-game schedule. Suzuki broke it in the Mariners' 160th game of the year.
His two early hits came off Ryan Drese, making Suzuki 10-for-20 lifetime against him. Suzuki's sixth-inning infield single came off John Wasdin.
Drese ran the count full in the third, and Suzuki hit a bouncer up the middle, out of the reach of shortstop Michael Young. As the cheers got louder, Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira shook Suzuki's hand.
"It was an honor to be here and see it," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "I wish I'd been in the stands instead of the dugout."
Moments after Suzuki's 258th hit, he scored his 100th run of the season. The Mariners batted around in the third inning, and Suzuki hit a long fly that Laynce Nix caught on the run for the third out.
There was a scary moment for Suzuki in the top of the third. The Gold Glove right fielder chased a foul ball by Ken Huckaby that landed in the stands, and casually hopped up on the low, padded fence -- but then lost his balance.
Suzuki fell awkwardly and came down straddling the fence, but was OK.
"I was very excited tonight. Maybe I was going along with that. I'm glad nothing happened," he said.
The crowd was on its feet and players in both dugouts were standing at the top rail when Suzuki led off the bottom of the first.
Suzuki quickly matched the mark, bouncing a single over the head of third baseman Hank Blalock.
Fans chanted "I-chi-ro! I-chi-ro!" and he acknowledged the ovation, briefly taking off his batting helmet.
Each member of the family was in high spirits, fully expecting Suzuki to claim the record over the weekend.
"I'd be totally shocked if Ichiro didn't get it," grandson Bo Drochelman said before the game. "We're here to celebrate baseball and my grandfather."
Suzuki's first-inning single was his 919th hit in the majors, breaking the record for most hits over a four-year span. Bill Terry of the New York Giants set the previous record of 918 hits from 1929-32.
About 115 journalists from Japan were credentialed for the three-game series.
The 30-year-old Suzuki, a four-time All-Star, was a huge star in Japan during his nine seasons with Orix in Japan's Pacific League. He got 1,278 hits playing in his home country, and he left Japan with a .353 hitting average.
Earlier this season, Suzuki became the first player to collect at least 200 hits in each of his first major league seasons. His 222 singles this year also are a major league single-season record.
Suzuki was the American League's MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, his first season playing in the United States. He's also been a star with his defense in right field, winning three Gold Gloves in his first three seasons.
First: Suzuki took a strike, fouled off two pitches, then singled to left.
Third: Suzuki took a ball inside, fouled off two pitches, took two balls outside, then singled between short and second.
Third: Suzuki flied out to right.
Sixth: Suzuki singled.
Eighth: Suzuki struck out looking.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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